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Should I focus on moving to a new airline mileage program?

Should I focus on moving to a new airline mileage program?

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Old Jun 25, 19, 11:26 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 33
Cool Should I focus on moving to a new airline mileage program?

I was looking for threads on this, but haven't stumbled on a discussion, but I am sure they exist. I have been a loyal Alaska Airline Mileage Plan member since the mid-90s and an MVP for the last 15 years or so. If I am being honest, I'm more of a collector than user of miles. Mostly because ever year I am trying to re-qualify for MVP status. It's like an addiction to qualify, LOL. What I appreciate more than anything is free bags if I choose to check, early boarding and better seats. Up until the mid-2000s, I moved out of the Pacific Northwest, which is when I started qualifying for MVP due to the long trips visiting home. Every year, I've kept it up, by flying a combination of Alaska and partner airlines, whether it was American, Hawaiian, Delta, British Airways, Qantas, etc. I also am a Rapid Rewards member as well as I do a lot of short hauls to Southwest destinations. Over the last 5 years or so, we know Alaska has ended some or changed the partner rules and earning on a partner metal isn't always what it once was - the end of the Delta partnership and changes with American significantly has changed the attractiveness of the MP program. Between Alaska, Delta and American, I was able to get anywhere domestically or globally.

I now live in California in a city that is not dominated by Alaska. Sure, I can get to a few cities direct, but if I want to earn miles when I travel across the country, I have to connect via Alaska in Seattle or Portland or head to LAX or SFO. I don't frequent one destination city over another to make it obvious - like flying to Atlanta all the time may make sense to join Delta's program, etc.

Over the last two years I've been debating changing the way I think and stop trying to fly the limited options to keep my MVP status. Sometimes I'll still take a connecting flight or not choose the cheapest or best option to earn MVP status.

I'm curious what others have thought of doing if they left Alaska's MVP program. Do you jump into another one? Has there been one that speaks to you? Or do you feel with the changes to all these programs, being loyal no longer is important?
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Old Jun 25, 19, 11:37 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Seattle, WA
Programs: AS MVPG
Posts: 251
I think you answered your own question; AS may not suit your travel needs and having status on an airline you use as much as others, perhaps you should focus on those programs that fit your travel needs and then burn your AS miles. If you choose another program, you might be able to status match. I have been with AS for quite some time and there have been times in my life where I have been stationed at a place where I really could not us their services, however at that point Delta and AA where part of the partner programs that REALLY helped. I live in the PNW, I like direct flights (and AS goes to the places I want to go) and I am invested in the company (so yeah, I am a bit of a shill). Sounds like Southwest might be a better fit for where you live.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 12:51 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Programs: AS MVPG, Hyatt EXPL, *all* the CC statuses
Posts: 63
Knowing the closest major airport would help. The sad reality is that like everyone else, barring any need for a specific frequent route, you're likely best off choosing the airline which dominates the closest major airport.

Back in the Virgin America days, I almost exclusively flew SAN-SFO and became Silver even though VX only had a few non-SFO flights out of SAN. WN is the dominant airline here.
Once I stopped needing to go up to SFO frequently, I was worried I'd lose status and it might end up making more sense to fly WN, despite my dislike for both open seating and Terminal 1.

Thankfully that drop-off in SFO travel happened around merger time, and the AS board heard my prayers and there's currently I think 30 destinations on AS from SAN. If not for that miracle, I'd probably be flying WN. If you're not flying the airline often, you're not really using the benefits of status, so what's the point?
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Old Jun 25, 19, 1:55 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Portland
Programs: MVPGold 75K
Posts: 264
Yes u should
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Old Jun 25, 19, 2:48 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Anchorage, AK
Programs: CO - Onepass Gold Elite--> UA - MileagePlus Gold Premier--> Silver --> AS - MileagePlan MVPGOLD!
Posts: 678
I was sort of in your shoes a few years ago, and did indeed end up switching; difference is that I switched TO Alaska, rather than AWAY FROM.

I'll say this (er, these) about your predicament:
1. Yes, loyalty is worth less now than before. With the mega-mergers we've seen this decade, basically any airline can connect basically any two major points at basically the same price with basically the same mediocre service and reliability. But loyalty is not COMPLETELY worthless. It does still have some perks, and the perks in the AS program are, in my opinion and in the opinions of some other travelers, worth more than the perks offered by the bigger players.
2. That was a good segue- other programs that you might have the opportunity to join are likely to be somewhat less (or even far less) rewarding. Admittedly, it doesn't sound like you care to use your miles. But Alaska is still awarding buckets of them for actually flying on their planes. And, global partners (at least, the ones that Alaska has bothered to enable award redemptions on) are still a very strong benefit of the Alaska program.
3. You've provided a good amount of info about your travel patterns; they're basically random. We don't know what your preferred departure point is, but I'm assuming it's NOT LAX or SFO, since you said you'd have to trek there. That means you're not hub-captive. You can do whatever you want.
4. All that said, I would say that your choice should maybe be between the following two options:
a. Become a free agent. Fly whatever suits you best at that time. Maybe it's United today (oh help us all). Maybe it's Allegiant next week, and the week after, Delta. Pick what matters to you: price? convenience? aircraft type? You choose.
b. Stick with Alaska, because it's not like the grass is especially greener anywhere else. Especially if you can get to MVPG75k... that comes with a big honkin' mileage bonus.

I hope that has helped.
Let us know what you decide!
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Old Jun 25, 19, 3:37 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: La Jolla, Ca
Programs: AA 2MM LT PLT; AS MVP Gold; HHonors Diamond; IHG PLT
Posts: 2,924
Originally Posted by sudobuntu View Post
Knowing the closest major airport would help. The sad reality is that like everyone else, barring any need for a specific frequent route, you're likely best off choosing the airline which dominates the closest major airport.
I'm curious as well: Other than Los Angeles, what California City "not dominated by Alaska" offers better nonstop, connections on another carrier. AS has done a pretty good job establishing network options out of SAN and SJC, with some very competitive fares, respectable upgrade opportunities, fewer weather-related risks than PDX and SEA. With all of the service options out SAN, I have had little difficulty earning MVPG status, enjoy benefits and upgrades requiring 2-3x BIS miles, increasing minimum spends on competing US carriers. Sure, there is lots of room for improvement, AS appears to be inching its way along the race to the bottom, but still offers one of the most viable options for those not earning top tier status on a major US carrier.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 3:56 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: SFO
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
I'm curious as well: Other than Los Angeles, what California City "not dominated by Alaska" offers better nonstop, connections on another carrier.
The wording on this is a little unclear, but as written I'd say: SFO, OAK, ONT, PSP, SBA, FAT, MRY, SBP, BFL, and probably SJC. SNA, LGB, and BUR too, but I'll lump those in with "Los Angeles".

Also, California cities dominated by Alaska would just be the null set, no? SAN and STS would be the closest to belonging there, but I wouldn't call the AS presence "dominating" at either airport.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 4:07 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: La Jolla, Ca
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Originally Posted by milypan View Post
The wording on this is a little unclear, but as written I'd say: SFO, OAK, ONT, PSP, SBA, FAT, MRY, SBP, BFL, and probably SJC. SNA, LGB, and BUR too, but I'll lump those in with "Los Angeles".

Also, California cities dominated by Alaska would just be the null set, no? SAN and STS would be the closest to belonging there, but I wouldn't call the AS presence "dominating" at either airport.
I would beg to differ: SFO, OAK and MRY are all reasonable alternatives to SJC. AS also offers nonstop service between MRY and SAN for cities not served out of SJC.
ONT, PSP, SBA, SNA, LGB, and BUR are all reasonable alternatives to LAX, generally better served by big 3.
AS has lots of options out of FAT - north and south.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 4:55 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Programs: AS MVPG, Hyatt EXPL, *all* the CC statuses
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Originally Posted by milypan View Post
The wording on this is a little unclear, but as written I'd say: SFO, OAK, ONT, PSP, SBA, FAT, MRY, SBP, BFL, and probably SJC. SNA, LGB, and BUR too, but I'll lump those in with "Los Angeles".

Also, California cities dominated by Alaska would just be the null set, no? SAN and STS would be the closest to belonging there, but I wouldn't call the AS presence "dominating" at either airport.
As usual, we need to know the airport and the travel profile. AS can be a very good alternative for a lot of CA airports, if we know where you're coming from and going to.

If we take the OP literally, the only cities that fit connecting through only SEA and PDX are ONT, OAK, and SBA.
I would argue that OAK hardly counts given SFO and SJC are easily reachable by transit, though I realize potentially up to an hour. For ONT it would be annoying to have to go to LAX given traffic, but it's definitely an option and AS practically has its own terminal there. The only one that's a toughy is SBA, but it's pretty evenly split there with no carrier having more than 3 destinations, and they're all just hub connectors anyway.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 5:43 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
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Originally Posted by CSquared View Post
What I appreciate more than anything is free bags if I choose to check, early boarding and better seats.
You can get the bags and the boarding by signing up for a credit card. You can get this on every major carrier (one card per airline) and it's a lot cheaper than maintaining status.

So really, we are left with the better seats. I am someone who will pay for E+ seats if they are not free, so I find this to be an extremely valuable benefit. All the carriers are basically the same here... with the lowest status level you can select an E+ seat some time before your flight (1-2 days, depending on the airline).

For shuttling around the west coast, I find that AS is the best airline. UA is probably 2nd best. The fact that AS is not yet a revenue-based program and has a 500-mile minimum means that there is significant value in these short flights, especially if you buy cheap tickets. I've recently done a lot of $60-$70 flights between SFO and various LA-are airports. Getting 500 eqm and 1000 rdm (750 as MVP) on a $60 ticket is nice. On UA this ticket might have a base fare of $40 or so, giving you 40PQD and 320RDM (as gold) or 280RDM (as silver). Getting 3x the miles is certainly nice, not to mention that you would have to take an awful lot of those to rack up the 3k pqd required to maintain bottom-level status...

On the other hand, UA has a great network (including international) and a good premium product on some long routes (which is why I've moved a lot of my business there). But for shuttling around the west coast, AS is tough to beat.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 10:00 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: SFO
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Originally Posted by diver858 View Post
I would beg to differ: SFO, OAK and MRY are all reasonable alternatives to SJC. AS also offers nonstop service between MRY and SAN for cities not served out of SJC.
ONT, PSP, SBA, SNA, LGB, and BUR are all reasonable alternatives to LAX, generally better served by big 3.
AS has lots of options out of FAT - north and south.
We have different definitions of reasonable. But if SFO, OAK, and SJC are reasonable alternatives for >90% of the NorCal population, and LAX is a reasonable alternative for >90% of the SoCal population, then clearly the AS network is dominated by UA and WN in the north and by UA, DL, and AA (and arguably WN) in the south.

AS has a number of strengths. But, unless you live in SEA, the network is not one of them.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 10:06 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
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Originally Posted by milypan View Post


AS has a number of strengths. But, unless you live in SEA, the network is not one of them.
I have been absolutely delighted by the 30 non-seasonal destinations AS has from SAN. I wouldn't be so quick to say anything to the effect of "only SEA has good destinations".
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Old Jun 25, 19, 10:21 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Originally Posted by sudobuntu View Post
I have been absolutely delighted by the 30 non-seasonal destinations AS has from SAN. I wouldn't be so quick to say anything to the effect of "only SEA has good destinations".
I never said that. I too might (still) choose AS as my airline if I were based in SAN. But if we’re defining the catchment area of an airport as within a 2-3 hour drive, as the post above does, then San Diego is within the LAX catchment area. And I don’t see how one could argue that the AS network ex-SAN/LAX is superior to the US3 networks ex-LAX.
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Old Jun 25, 19, 10:56 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Programs: Alaska MVP Gold 7K, MARRIOTT PLAT PREMIER WITH AMBASSADOR
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Yeah as someone that has bounced around the great state of California the last decade Iím mainly purely curious where the OP lives lol. Iíve lived in Napa lake arrowhead woodland Redding and now Tahoe. Thereís pretty much always a great Alaska option nearby. Napa SFO OAK SJO Even Sacramento. Lake arrowhead I had a 2 hour drive to LAX or 3 with traffic which sucked but youíve got Ontario right there 40 min away I always chose to stay with Alaska even though their Ontario flights were more expensive because of the perks. He might be somewhere thatís by me because Iíd say my current location in South Lake Tahoe has so far proven to be the biggest journey to fly Alaska but Iím still thankfully doing it. Distance isnít horrible theyíve got flights out of Reno but for me thatís an hour and half windy mountain drive and theyíre always double the SFO flights and I can get to Sacramento in 2 hours of windy road driving but theyíre also always much spendier than SFO so Iíve typically ended up doing the 3 hour plus drive to SFO so far. So thatís my guess is heís somewhere near me or super north up by Redding. Either way for me itís worth it but I am flying about 80-90 times a year so the upgrades are what make it worth while if youíre only flying 20 flights or so probably not worth the hassle and extra expense. Tell us the airport man youíve got everyone curious!
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Old Jun 25, 19, 11:02 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Programs: AS MVPG, Hyatt EXPL, *all* the CC statuses
Posts: 63
I extrapolated "unless you live in SEA, the network is not one of them" to imply that the connection options from non-SEA airports are not good. But true, you did not explicitly say that.
I'm not at all saying AS is superior than the other airlines at LAX/SFO/SAN, etc, I'm just saying it's viable competitor. When available North America routes are within +/-5 of AS, I think that's good competition.
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